If you’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy for any substantial amount of time, you know that its title character, Meredith Grey, apparently has more lives than a cat — the woman is running out of fingers upon which to count her near-death experiences.
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So while some fans may have found Meredith’s harrowing experience tonight a bit excessive, I’m actually OK with it. Not to say that I enjoyed seeing one of my favorite characters on TV getting brutally attacked by a patient, but the incident wasn’t without its merits.
Let me explain.
As we’ve mentioned, Meredith has nearly died many, many, many times before. She almost drowned-slash-froze-to-death. She narrowly escaped being blown up. She’s been in a car crash, a plane crash and nearly every other kind of crash you can imagine. She gave birth in the middle of a major power outage. She weathered the loss of her husband.
No, life at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital has not been kind to Meredith. But tonight’s attack felt… different.
In the opening scene of the episode, we see Meredith teaching a room full of interns. She has a noticeably large scar on her neck from what, at this point, we do not know.
Meredith speaks to us — the viewers — too, explaining, “In group settings, men are 75 percent more likely to speak up than women. And when a woman does speak up, it’s statistically probable her male counterparts will either interrupt her or speak over her. It’s not because they’re rude; the female voice is scientifically proven to be more difficult for the male brain to register.”
What does this mean, she asks? “It means in this world where men are bigger, stronger, faster,” says Meredith, “if you’re not ready to fight, the silence will kill you.”
And therein lies the essence of what I enjoyed so much about this episode and about, yes, yet another near-death experience for Meredith Grey. She won’t be silenced.
There’s a bit of a feminist undercurrent there, which I’ll be the first to admit pleases me. Not in the much maligned, stereotypical stigmatized view of feminism that would suggest women want to be louder and stronger and better than men. But in the definition of feminism: equality. In just wanting to be heard as much as men are, not 75 percent less than.
In a broader context, this also bears testament to the fact that Grey’s has found its voice, too. While we all had our doubts after McDreamy was killed off, the show has emerged relatively unscathed by the loss. What’s more, the drama is nearly always embedded with a meaningful sentiment now.
Already this season they’ve addressed suicide, teen bullying, racism, substance abuse and gender equality — the latter of which tinged tonight’s episode.
What’s more, there was no knight in shining armor tonight. Meredith didn’t have Derek to help her weather the storm. Karev stuck by her side but, as Mer points out, she’ll be fine. This near-death experience had much less to do with Meredith almost dying than it did with her fully living.
Will there be fallout from this incident? Absolutely. That’s the other part of tonight’s catastrophic attack that feels decidedly fresh and different. While Meredith has suffered through countless tragedies and losses, she has always managed to maintain a relatively positive outlook.
She hasn’t let the experiences calcify her… yet. Perhaps there’s a certain predictability that viewers find trite. How can one person go through everything she’s gone through and not be so, so angry?
Judging by next week’s teaser clip, though, what we are going to see from Meredith next will be an authentic look into a fractured psyche. She will be angry. It will be messy. It will be flawed and complex and real.
And it’s not that we haven’t seen genuine emotion and heartrending pain from Meredith before — God knows Ellen Pompeo is brilliant at decimating us each week. There simply seems to be a shift in the show’s focus that will undoubtedly “fill the silence” in a way we haven’t seen before.
The show has a voice and it isn’t just using it to make us feel sad. It’s using it to make us think and to challenge our ideas.
I have no doubt the second half of this season will make itself heard by exploring controversial threads of conversation surrounding post-traumatic stress disorder, assault and much more throughout Meredith’s recovery.
So, yeah, I’m looking forward to hearing more of what Grey’s has to say — even if it makes me uncomfortable.